When a wrecker rolls up to your car or truck, it usually means your vehicle is disabled, you've wrecked, the police are having it towed for a violation you have committed, or there's some other problem.
"Wrecker drivers are like insurance claims adjusters and lawyers. Nobody deals with them until something bad happens," according to lawyer Michael P. McGovern, a former wrecker operator.
McGovern made a lot of towing service calls while working during his high school and college years for his father, Ben McGovern, the former owner of Cedar Bluff Towing Service. Ben McGovern founded the company in the early 1970s and sold it in the late 1990s.
Michael McGovern's familiarity with the wrecker business had a direct bearing on his legal career. After he started practicing law in 1982, towing company operators would call him when they had a legal problem involving their towing business. "They didn't have to explain the idiosyncrasies of the business to me. I already knew," he said.
That later led to his being asked by the Towing and Recovery Association of America to serve as its general counsel. "They called one day and said, 'You're the only lawyer we've ever heard of who grew up in the towing business. Would you consider being our general counsel?' " He accepted and served for 13 years while continuing with his criminal and civil practice.
He is no longer general counsel, but through that affiliation, he developed a national reputation for doing legal work in the towing field. He still handles towing cases all over the country and has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court twice in cases involving towing issues.
McGovern writes a monthly article on legal issues for the magazine "Tow Times," which has a circulation of about 40,000.
A collection of his articles was recently published in book form by T.T. Publications, Winter Springs, Fla. It's titled "Towing and the Law."
McGovern said he learned how to operate a tow truck by trial and error. "There was no training in those days. But today, there are sophisticated training schools that offer certification programs for tow truck operators at different levels - for car towing, big truck towing, water recoveries."
"When I started, you went to the scene, and if there was a car in a ditch, you figured it out yourself," he said. "You pulled a cable and hoped you hooked it to the car in the right place to get it out or roll it upright."
The work used to involve more physical labor than it does today, because all the equipment was manual. "Today, tow trucks have a lot of hydraulics and electronics," McGovern said.
Which is correct - wrecker or tow truck? McGovern said this is a running debate in the industry. " 'Wrecker' is primarily an antiquated term," he said. "'Wrecker' is predominantly a Southern term. Up North or out West, you're more likely to hear 'tow truck.' "
McGovern says the most important things he learned from being a tow truck driver are: "Don't drink and drive, and always wear your seat belt. I saw too many incidents where people were killed or seriously injured because somebody was drinking or not wearing their seat belt."
Don K. Ferguson, retired U.S. District Court chief deputy clerk, is a former News Sentinel city editor and a former member of Knoxville City Council. His postal address is P.O. Box 2121, Knoxville, TN 37901. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Nice Press in TN On McGovern's "Towing and the Law" Book
Here's the story from www.Knoxnews.com:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 5:35 PM